are two sentences in the concluding paragraph of Chomsky's September 17 ZNet
Commentary (`Summits');, in which he champions the Havana South-South Summit of
`G77' country leaders that took place in April:
African leaders pointed out that the `voices in the street' in the West are repeating what `the developing countries have been saying for many years in various international fora with little success.' Several suggested that `an alliance was possible.'
must return with a mixed answer as to whether African leaders are listening to
`voices in the street in AFRICA,' given a remarkable upsurge in activism
recently, but will wait until next month's ZNet Commentary to do so, and today
just focus on `voices' in the form of critical analysis.
not alone, drawing as he does upon interpretations by a prominent advocacy
group--Third World Network, based in Penang, Malaysia--which builds relations
between civil society and nationalist governments throughout the South.
Likewise, a longish list of signatories, including internationalist
organisations I admire enormously (like Ruckus and Global Exchange from San
Francisco), concluded after the Havana meeting that left-popular alliances with
Southern rulers are possible and desirable:
With regard to the fundamental debt cancellation and fair trade issues, the G77 summit in Havana once again confirmed the accordance between the views of the G77 and the new worldwide anti-globalization movement that protested WTO/IMF/WB in Seattle and Washington. A cooperation between the two parties therefore would seem appropriate in order to achieve our common goals in the most efficient and speedy way. (Letter to Nigerian president and G77 leader Olusegun Obasanjo, 16 June 2000, http://www.unitedpeoples.net/engelsk/univers iel/FRAME_break.html)
what if cooperation is not appropriate, under prevailing circumstances? Setting
aside the controversial Obasanjo for now, the most vociferous anti-IMF
campaigner from Third World officialdom remains Zimbabwe's authoritarian ruler
Robert Mugabe. Earlier this month Mugabe inexplicably received generous applause
at a Harlem public meeting, and praise on the otherwise discerning Democracy Now
radio program produced at NY's WBAI, notwithstanding the intensifying brutality
of his regime.
(An important footnote: last Friday, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change headquarters in Harare was raided by cops, in the wake of a grenade attack the previous week which blew out the office windows but fortunately injured no one. Over the weekend, Zimbabwe police photocopied a truckload of MDC documents and backed up the party's computer hard- drives--i.e., its entire database--all the better to intimidate MDC members in future. On Monday, five Zimbabwe spies were reportedly fired because they had not predicted the opposition's capture of nearly half the parliamentary seats contested in the June election. What democrat wants cooperation with Mugabe?)
best case for allying with Third World nationalist rulers against global elites
is probably the African National Congress government in Pretoria. But a month
ago, in a ZNet contribution called `Can Thabo Mbeki Change the World?,' I
briefly summarised why even the most sophisticated backroom dealmaking by South
African president Mbeki, finance minister Trevor Manuel and trade minister Alec
Erwin is already flopping (http://www.marxmail.org/patrick_bond.htm).
who is chair of the World Bank/IMF board of governors, is giving the opening
speech at the organisations' annual meetings in Prague next week, and will join
a debating panel with the superb Filippino political-economist Walden Bello,
Bank president James Wolfensohn, and host Vaclav Havel. Erwin is busy trying to
put a `G5' of leaders from Nigeria, Egypt, Brazil and India, to restart the WTO
negotiations that were derailed in Seattle.
three South Africans are big guys, with a big agenda--but they are fundamentally
misguided and they will fail. The reform project suffers from inaccurate
analysis (e.g., attributing globalization mainly to technology), insufficient
strategies (minor reforms of the Bretton Woods Institutions and WTO),
incompetent tactics (generally reduced to begging and scraping), and
inappropriate alliances (e.g., SA's coddling of bad Southern leaders like
Indonesia's Suharto until the moment he fell and the Burmese junta still today,
and occasionally even US multinational corporations, while for all practical
purposes dissing the social movements).
want to explore this position further, by asserting the exhaustion of the Third
World nationalist, `talk- left, act-right' project represented by the likes of
Mbeki, Mugabe or Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad (also a brutal anti-democrat,
even if his anti-IMF stance and imposition of capital controls attract our
admiration). Thus, I'll argue, the real allies of Chomsky, Third World Network,
Ruckus and GX, Harlem African-Americans and any other progressives looking for a
global critique are not to be found in Pretoria, Harare, or Kuala Lumpur state
houses, in G77 meetings, or in any finance ministries I am familiar with. They
are, instead, in the poverty-stricken communities, streets, factories, mines,
fields, churches, hospices, clinics, creches, schools and homes.
to be fair, Chomsky explicitly confirms in closing his article, by observing
that South-South alliances worth supporting have indeed "been taking shape
at the grassroots level, an impressive development, rich in opportunity and
promise, and surely causing no little concern in high places."
Africa, there's plenty going on to distinguish genuine grassroots allies from
the comprador `waBenzi' (named after their favourite auto) now ruling all
Africa's four-dozen nation-states. (And if I knew more about the rest of the
world I would generalise this beyond Africa.)
by looking more closely, it quickly emerges that what `the developing countries
have been saying for many years in various international fora with little
success' is actually in contradiction to the messages from Seattle and DC, not
to mention many of the best grassroots programs in the South. Third World
nationalist rulers generally want IN to the global capitalist economy, on better
terms, particularly through reforms of the Bank/IMF/WTO. Like Erwin, many use
neoliberal rhetoric to this end, citing protectionist barriers in the north as
evidence of hypocrisy, while demanding (as does Erwin) the extinction of
`dinosaur industries' like Northern agriculture and even manufacturing.
in contrast, the protesting masses are fed up with reforms and are trying to
shut the institutions down, in part so as to one day allow more space for
protecting potentially radical socio- economic programs from the vagaries,
volatilities, vulnerabilities and hostilities of world markets. The strategic
differences between the two camps are enormous--and make alliance-building
foolhardy and potentially fatal at this juncture.
examples document the need for putting the people first, and only later giving
credence to nationalist rulers, once grassroots power is more firmly
established. Consider the `Lusaka Declaration' signed in May 1999 by the leading
African social movement and church organisations working on debt, (from Burkina
Faso, Lesotho, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Cameroon, Swaziland,
Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe).
Lusaka Declaration captures the suspicion that many activists feel about their
nationalist leaders, for they view the demand for
the cancellation of debt as part of a broader struggle to fundamentally transform the current world economic order and transfer power from the political leadership of the rich countries and the economic power of Transnational Corporations an international financiers, and their instruments, notably the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organisation. Likewise, these forces have instruments in the South, namely some of our own technocratic, political and commercial elite who are in the tiny minority of Africans who continue to promote the Washington Consensus.
built upon similar regional meetings in Accra, Lome and Gauteng in 1998-99, and
led to the launching of a mass-popular `Africa People's Consensus' drafting
process to transcend the development orthodoxy of the Washington Consensus and
the slightly reformed--but now collapsed--Post-Washington Consensus.
similar initiative in West Africa is known as the `Dakar 2000' Coordinating
Committee, which is supported by groups like the Association des Femmes
Africaines pour la Recherche et le Développement as well as numerous West and
Central African social movements and NGOs (and on the Northern end of
solidarity, by the excellent Paris-based Association pour la Taxation des
Transactions financiFres pour l'Aide aux Cityens, and the ComitQ pour
l'Annulation de la Dette du Tiers Monde in Brussels). Dakar 2000 took on more
momentum in a Yaoundé conference in January this year, and by May the Dakar
Committee condemned the existing debt `relief' schemes: `Like all previous
gestures, the initiatives taken in Cologne [G8 reforms in June 1999] and in
Cairo [African and EU elites in April 2000] do not offer any actual solution.'
The need to stop coddling nationalists was also explicitly recognised last month in Namibia, when cross-border radical activists and strategists condemned the failure of the `old boys' club' in Southern African Development Community countries (SADC). While SADC elites met and slapped each others' backs in Windhoek, a declaration was drafted by the Southern African Peoples Solidarity Network, which includes the Alternative Information and Development Center, Associacao para Desenvolvimento Rural de Angola, Council of Churches/Ecumenical Institute (Namibia), Ecumencial Support Services (ESS-Zimbabwe), Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU-South Africa), Gender and Trade Network (Southern Africa), Jubilee 2000 (chapters from Angola, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia), Ledikasyon pu Travayer (Workers Education- Mauritius), Mineworkers Development Agency (Lesotho), Mwelekeo wa NGO (Southern Africa), Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union, South African NGO Coalition, Swaziland Youth Congress and the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development. Their `Declaration to the Governmental Summit of the Southern African Development Community' resolved that the governments of our countries
have for long mainly engaged in rhetorical declarations about national development, and development cooperation and regional integration, with few effective achievements;
are mainly concerned with preserving and promoting their own individual and group status, power and privileges, and their personal and aspirant-class appropriation of our nations' resources; and, for these reasons, are frequently engaged in divisive competition and even dangerous conflicts amongst themselves at the expense of the interests of the people at national and regional levels;
are, at the same time, committed to supporting and defending each other whenever the interests and power of the ruling elites come into conflict with the human rights, and the democratic and development aspirations of their own populations;
and are using SADC as a self-serving `old boys' club' for such mutual support; and are increasingly responsive and subordinate to external inducements and pressures from governmental agencies in the richest industrialised countries, and their global corporations, banks and other financial organisations, and the `multilateral' institutions dominated and used by them.
The Network went on to demand that
the elites desist from their collaboration and collusion with national and international political and economic forces and neo-liberal agencies, particularly the IMF and World Bank, to turn SADC into an `open region' of free trade, free capital movements and investment rights, to the benefit of international traders, transnational corporations and financial speculators--this runs counter to the potential for full and effective, internally-generated and rooted national and regional development... Whether or not our governments accept and act on the above vitally important demands, we as members of people's organisations from the whole of Southern Africa will continue to pursue these aims and deepen our work in and with existing and emerging mass movements to challenge and change our governments' policies and strategies; and--if that fails--to change our governments. (http://www.aidc.org.za --also, don't miss the Jubilee South site hosted by my AIDC friends.)
Dear ZNet readers, these are the declarations and summits which deserve a bit more publicity and consideration--at the very least, prior to fragile alliance bids with the G77, G24, NonAligned Movement, G5 and whatever other configuration of Southern elites comes together in Prague next week to talk-left/act-right.
(Next month I'll look beyond Seattle, Washington, London, Melbourne and Prague, to the dozens of other sites of anti-neoliberal rebellion, to show that Our Team is not merely doing armchair resolution-writing, but is hitting the streets with more people and more militancy than you may have guessed.)
Patrick Bond (firstname.lastname@example.org)
University of the Witwatersrand Graduate School of Public and Development Management, South Africa